Monday, September 28, 2009

Worry

This is why I tell you: Don't worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Isn't life more than food and the body more than clothing? Matthew 6:25 (HCSB)

A worried man. Image Via Wikipedia

I have touched on the subject of worry in a previous post.  In this post I hope to expand on this previous thought to look at how focusing on the future can be unmindful especially when worry is involved!

There is a concept in psychology that is based on the observation that people that suffer from anxious diseases struggle with an over focus on the (negative) past or the future.  The concept is that if you can help a person escape this kind of thinking that they will resolve their anxiety.   This concept is seen in nearly all theories of psychology, though they are addressed in different ways (i.e. answering existential questions, reason and logic, focus on relationship, ways of distraction, focus on sensation over thinking, mindfulness, and so on). 

For the Christian this concept is not the same as being oblivious to the past or the future, but rather it is being spiritual, powerful, destroying strongholds, disciplined, and bringing these thoughts under the Lordship of Christ. 

For though we live in the body, we do not wage war in an unspiritual way, since the weapons of our warfare are not worldly, but are powerful through God for the demolition of strongholds. We demolish arguments and every high-minded thing that is raised up against the knowledge of God, taking every thought captive to obey Christ.
2 Corinthians 10:3-5 (HCSB)

Clearly Jesus is commanding us in Matthew to not worry!  If we are to then to look at that command in light of "taking every thought captive to obey Christ" then it is imperative that our worry thoughts be brought under Christ's authority!  It is this anxiousness for the future that prevents us from unreservedly giving ourselves to God.  "I would Lord, but..."  Our Lord was very intolerant of that attitude as well saying, "No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God (Luke 9:62)."   The reality is that if we do not get this issue in hand then we are never going to give ourselves to the work of God, nor are we fit for the kingdom. 

Before proceeding to the solution I would like to demonstrate how the issue of anxiety is connected to the study of soul (i.e. psychology).  There are some very well meaning Christians that fear the discipline of psychology as being godless.  To a certain extent this criticism is deserving.  Psychologist tend to be more atheistic than just about any other profession.  In the recent history religious and spiritual affections were defined as pathological by psychologists.  However, I believe the study of soul has a legitimate place in the Christian faith.  We must be on guard and discerning about mixing truth with error to be be sure, but that does not mean that all psychology is error. 

The connection to the Christian faith is the word soul itself.  In the Greek psyche is the same root word that psychology is derived from.  The word psyche appears about 90 times in the New Testament.  The Hebrew equivalent nepesh occurs about 700 times in the Old Testament.  Another Greek word that has an affinity with the discipline of psychology is nous (mind).  Nous (also noeo and noema) is preferred by Paul in his writings.  I could go on with concepts like insight and understanding that are both Biblical and psychological but I think you get my point.  The reality is if God had intended that we not have a study of soul then he would not have spent so much time addressing it in His Word.  In fact soul is mentioned about the same amount of times as love in the Bible.  To me that would make soul an important subject. 

How does that relate to the issue of anxiety?  Jesus connected it:

This is why I tell you: Don't worry about your life (psyche), what you will eat or what you will drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Isn't life (psyche) more than food and the body more than clothing? Matthew 6:25 (HCSB)

Paul also connects it:

...taking every thought (noema) captive to obey Christ.
2 Corinthians 10:5 (HCSB)

And the peace of God, which surpasses every thought (nous), will guard your hearts and minds (noema) in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 4:7 (HCSB)

...be transformed by the renewing of your mind (nous)...
Romans 12:2 (HCSB)

When this is understood and not feared one begins to realize that the Bible is rich with psychological truths.  For example Romans 7:13-25 is one of the best descriptions of pathology and addictions in a religious context that can be found (IMO).

What then is the solution to worry from this perspective?  

  1. Seek first the Kingdom of Heaven
  2. Seek His Righteousness
  3. Develop a healthy perspective of things (possessions)
  4. Store treasure in Heaven
  5. Look on good things
  6. Set God as your master (even over your thoughts)
  7. Consider God's creation (Peaceful walks through nature tend to give perspective)
  8. Focus on the present (not worry about tomorrow)
  9. Present self as a sacrifice to God
  10. Refused to be conformed to age (pattern of culture?)
  11. Be transformed (made new in glory) in your mind
  12. Discern God's good, perfect, and pleasing will

This list has many avenues to explore possibly in future posts.  There also is much more than this list as well.  However, it is item number eight that led me to write on this topic.  Jesus says, "...don't worry about tomorrow, because tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own (Matthew 6:34)."  When we worry about tomorrow's troubles we loose our effectiveness in today.   When you notice that you mind is drawn to the worries of tomorrow it is time to put the breaks on and recognize who really is on the throne of your life.  It is the mindfulness of God and His provision that quiets the worried soul.  It is the resolve to give yourself to God in spite of the apparent difficulties or the unknown difficulties that may arise that give you strength.  In this way faith in God becomes the weapon to destroy the stronghold of worry in your life. 

The celebrations of God's will for you in the present moment is a cure for ineffective and unproductive worry about the future!

God Bless You All